The first delegation of women to call on Senator Harding since his nomination – members and officers of the National Womans party from 15 states.

Lucile Atcherson, circa 1920, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

Her Diplomacy Spotlight:

Breaking Ground: Lucile Atcherson

Lucile Atcherson of Ohio was a young suffragette who worked for the Franklin County, Ohio, Suffrage Association. She later worked as the General Secretary of the American Committee for Devastated France – a humanitarian organization run primarily by women committed to rebuilding France post-World War I.

Through this experience, Lucile Atcherson gained an interest in foreign affairs. In 1921, she applied to take the entrance exam to become a diplomatic officer. This caused many people to take notice, including the Attorney General of Ohio, as there were no women officers in the diplomatic service at the time. Women at the State Department primarily worked in clerical positions.

Lucille Atcherson Appointment in Foreign Service Journal

Notice of the appointment of Lucile Atcherson to the foreign service. From “American Consular Bulletin” (predecessor publication to the “Foreign Service Journal”), January 1923, page 13

By early 1922, U.S. President Harding had received several letters about Lucile Atcherson’s intention to join the diplomatic ranks, including one from the Columbus (Ohio) Women’s Association of Commerce that had unanimously endorsed Atcherson for a diplomatic appointment. They wrote, “…three hundred Columbus women voters, who know and admire Miss Atcherson, urge you to see that she is appointed to this office.” These women recognized the power of their newly acquired right to vote, and sought to remind President Harding that they intended to use this right!

Atcherson did not need Harding’s direct intervention. She achieved the third highest ranking score on the 1922 examination, and was not far behind the first and second scoring men.

An Undersecretary of State recorded at the time that Lucile’s appointment “established a very unfortunate precedent.” NMAD’s Her Diplomacy honors this very fortunate precedent set by Lucile Atcherson.

Her Diplomacy at NMAD

Last year, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of U.S. women gaining the right to vote after decades of struggle, protest, and lobbying of state and federal governments. The right to vote was a vital step forward for women’s fuller participation in government and civil society. This participation also paved the way for increasing numbers of American women to serve their country in diplomatic capacities, representing their country at home and abroad.

With the Her Diplomacy campaign, the National Museum of American Diplomacy (NMAD) is celebrating women in diplomacy — women who have blazed trails, negotiated peace, served alongside their partners, strengthened diplomatic relations, survived dangers, and opened doors for sharing of cultures and ideas. They have made vital contributions to our nation, but their stories remain largely unknown. Discover some of these dedicated women during Women’s History Month and throughout the year.